As detailed here, the Obama administration wants to keep the excise tax on employer-provided health care plans as a way to control overall health care costs. The idea is, if your plan costs too much, you will be taxed 40 cents on every dollar your plan costs over $8,000. The cost will be so high that your employer will shift more costs to you or drop your coverage completely.
Rose Ann DeMoro, the Executive Director of the California Nurses Association, says this plan is a fraud devised by health insurance company lobbyists that will continue to allow the health insurance industry to gauge Americans:
Advocates of the current bill say it's most important feature is that it expands coverage to 30 million Americans. But their method for accomplishing what NNU Co-president Deborah Burger calls a "wishful statement" is an individual mandate forcing the uninsured to buy private insurance or be criminalized and subject to fines, in fact symbolizes the power of the insurance industry.
Individual mandate was the top priority of the insurance industry, which also succeeded in fending off meaningful restraints of its predatory pricing practices. The likely outcome is that far too many people will still face health care insecurity or medical bankruptcy due to ever rising out-of-pocket costs, or continue to skip needed medical care because of the high prices.
Indeed, discouraging provision of care as the preferred way to control costs, rather than rein in the pricing practices of the insurance and drug giants, is a central tenet of the insurance industry and conservative policy wonks.
That is also symbolized by the Senate bill's excise tax on comprehensive insurance, deceptively labeled as "Cadillac plans." In practice that tax will push employers to further reduce benefits for workers, and shift more costs to employees. Especially as more and more plans are subject to the tax every year due to the weak price controls on insurers in the legislation.
In exchange for lining up millions of new customers for the insurance giants, while failing to stop their price gouging or significantly cracking down on denials of claims they don't want to pay for, we're told that the legislation is historic for "ending" the worst industry abuses by banning exclusions of patients with pre-existing conditions and the shameful practice of dropping people when they become sick.
Yet both of those provisions are seriously marred by gaping loopholes for an industry which has perfected the art of adverse selection and gaming the system.
As the NNU has said in its statement on the bill, the loopholes include:
* Provisions permitting insurers and companies to more than double charges to employees who fail "wellness" programs because they have diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol readings, or other medical conditions.
* Permitting insurers to sell policies "across state lines", exempting patient protections passed in other states. Insurers will thus set up in the least regulated states in a race to the bottom threatening public protections won by consumers in various states.
* Allowing insurers to charge four times more based on age plus more for certain conditions, and continue to use marketing techniques to cherry-pick healthier, less costly enrollees.
* Insurers may continue to rescind policies for "fraud or intentional misrepresentation" - the main pretext insurance companies now use to cancel coverage.
Does any of this sound like real reform? It sounds like a Christmas gift to the health insurance industry courtesy of President Obama and Senate Dems.
The House is going to go along with all of this because Ben Nelson and Holy Joe Lieberman say they'll bail if anything in the Senate bill is changed.
So basically millions of Americans with employer-provided health care plans are going to see their health care plans get worse while their costs increase, or their going to be dropped altogether from the plans, while those without health insurance now are going to be mandated to buy crappy insurance that has no public option competition to keep health insurance industry costs in check.
This is a sell-out, pure and simple. As Lawrence O'Donnell said on MSNBC this morning, this "reform" is going to give liberalism a bad name.
After all this stuff shakes out and people realize their health care has gotten worse but their costs have gotten higher, they are going to PUNISH Democrats for a long, long time in election after election.
And you know what? Democrats will deserve it.
And I am writing this as a person who has only voted for Democrats all my life.
If they pass this abomination and Obushma signs it, I am done with them.